A new British aid package for Pakistan, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in Islamabad, is worth $1,055 million over four years. The money will fund education for up to 4 million students, train 9,000 teachers, purchase 6 million new text books and build 8,000 schools by 2015, according to various media reports
Announcing new aid, Cameron said, “I struggle to find a country that’s more in our interest to progress and succeed than Pakistan." “If Pakistan succeeds then we will have a good story ... if it fails we will have all the problems of migration and extremism, all the problems", he added.
With growth in the last decade, a number of countries like China, India and Pakistan have transitioned from low- to middle-income status under World Bank classifications. But China and India together still account for about half of the world's poor, and most of the illiterates
, according to The Guardian
. The focus of the OECD nations and the World Bank should be on helping all of the poor people regardless of whether they live in low-income or middle-income countries. Such help needs to be specifically targeted toward human development programs like education and healthcare.
Earlier this year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the PIA, the national airline that continues to run huge losses.
The commission reported that 25 million children in Pakistan do not attend school, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution, and three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson, according to the BBC
The report added that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.
Among the key findings of the commission are the following:
* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan which still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity
The report concluded that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education
Will the additional British aid bring new focus on education in Pakistan? Is it still possible for Pakistan to achieve the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015? I certainly hope so, but it will take a renewed national focus in both public and private sectors of the country.
Fortunately, there are a number of highly committed individuals and organizations like The Citizens Foundation
(TCF) and the Human Development Foundation
(HDF) which are very active in raising funds and building and operating schools to improve the situation in Pakistan. It is important that all of us who care for the future of Pakistan should generously help these and similar other organizations.
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